34th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A and Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe-Nov. 26, 2023

 

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A and Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe-Nov. 26, 2023

Ezekiel 34: 11-12; 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28; Matthew 25: 31-46

 

Theme: Jesus Christ, King of the Universe will Judge all Nations

                Congratulations to all of us for we have completed this liturgical calendar year A. We have journeyed with our Lord Jesus Christ from his birth through his ministry, Passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension, and into the growth of the Church and the spread of the Word of God to all nations. Today, we celebrate the end of the liturgical year with the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The Church, our Mother, suggests to us the Scriptures readings that talk about the end of time and final judgment. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel prophesized to the wicked leaders of the people of Israel that one day, God himself will shepherd the flocks (Israelites) that they scattered. Ezekiel’s prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus who, according to Saint Paul in our second reading, will hand over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power (1 Corinthians 15: 24). Jesus, “the first fruit”, as Paul calls him, “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15: 25, NRSVCE). The Evangelist Matthew, in our Gospel passage, tells us how this final judgment will be. Jesus Christ will sit on the throne of his glory and pass sentence on all of us separating the righteous at his right hand from the wicked at the left. Those at his right hand will inherit the kingdom of heaven while the wicked will be thrown into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. The judgment will be based on what you and I do or do not do now to whom Jesus calls “the least of these who are members of my family” (Matthew 25: 40, 45). By selecting these Bible readings, the Church wants to teach us that the end of time (either the return of our Lord or the day of our death) and the final judgment are real. So, we need to prepare ourselves accordingly and be watchful.

                The Church has started preparing us for the end of time and the final judgment over the past two Sundays during which we have been meditating on Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew. The first part (vv. 1-13) was the parable of the Ten Virgins that we read on Sunday, November 12th. These ten virgins went to meet with the bridegroom. The narrator said that five of them were wise and the other five were foolish. The key question in this parable was what made the first group wise and what made the other group foolish? Note that all of them were virgins, which means, they represent all baptized. Each of them had a lamp (the lamp symbolizes our personal relationship with God), and each had oil in her lamp. Oil stands for prayers, Masses, sacraments, and charity work. The way the lamp cannot function without oil is the same way our relationships with God cannot stand without prayers, Masses, and all the good things we do for our Church and God’s people. Then if all of them had all of these, what really made the first five virgins wise and the other five foolish? Note that the difference between the wise and foolish is that the wise pre-brought “extra oil” that they used when the existing oil dried out because the bridegroom was delayed in coming. The foolish ones did not have extra oil. So, when their existing oil dried out, they had nothing to use to trim their lamps. “Extra oil” here stands for the extra time that we spend in prayers and the sacraments, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass) and confession. It is the “extra” love and generosity with which we help God’s people, love them, and forgive them. We cannot be content to come to Mass on Sundays only because it is the day of obligation. We, the “wise” Christians, need to listen to Jesus in the Scriptures and receive his Body and Blood in the Holy Communion as often as we can. We should not be content to use the sacrament of Confession once or twice a year because it is prescribed like that. We, the “wise” Christians, should go to confession as often as it is necessary and as soon as possible to make sure that we are reconciled and in a good relationship with God. When we help people, love them, and forgive them, we should not stop when we think that we have reached the limit. We, the “wise” Christians, help, love, and forgive the people with “extra” generosity and love without counting and without limit. Because we do not know the day or the hour of the end of time (either the second coming of our Lord or the day of our death), this parable taught us to always have “extra oil” which strengthens our relationships with God and with our fellow humans. By doing so, we stay awake and sober as Saint Paul exhorted us in the second reading.  

The second part of Chapter 25 (vv. 14-30) is the parable of the Talents that we read last Sunday. To prepare ourselves for the end of time and its last judgment, this parable taught us not to bury the baptismal gifts that we receive from God but to use them and build the reign of God where we live. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a man who was going on a journey, called in his three servants, and entrusted his possessions to each of them. He expected them to invest in them. The first servant received five talents, the second two talents, and the third one talent, each according to his ability. The parable states that the first two servants did great jobs by doubling their master’s money. In recognition of their efforts, the master called them “faithful servants” and he authorized them to share in his “joy”. “‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’” (Vv. 21, 23). The third servant, however, was not invited to share his master’s “joy” because instead of investing his master’s money, he chose to bury it. When the time for accounting arrived, he returned the same amount of money without any interest. Consequently, the master treated him as a “wicked”, “lazy”, and “useless” servant. He had him be thrown into the darkness outside, where there was wailing and grinding of teeth. God has given us gifts according to our abilities. He expects us to use them and transform our societies, neighborhoods, Church communities, and families. Let us not be afraid to use our baptismal gifts. We will be judged on what we did with God’s gifts.

The third and last part of Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew is the story of the Judgment of the Nations that we have heard today. In the context of the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, this passage, like the previous two, prepares us for the end of time and the last judgment. The Gospel says that all nations will be gathered before Jesus Christ, King of the Universe for the final judgment. The criterion for the judgment will be based on what you and I do or do not do now to our brothers and sisters whom Jesus calls, “the least of these who are members of my family” (v. 40, 45). This expression refers to the poor, marginalized, sick, prisoners, and all those who need our love, forgiveness, assistance, and protection, including the environment which today needs careful protection from all of us. To be counted among the righteous who will be at the right hand of Jesus, let us love everyone, forgive them, and assist them whenever they need us. What we do to our fellow humans, we do to Jesus.

The meditation on the full Chapter 25 during these three Sundays in a row prepares us very well to know what we need to do while we are waiting for the end of time and the final judgment. We must always have “extra oil in our lamps”, meaning that we must always have extra time for prayers, sacraments (especially Mass and confession), and charity works. We must work on Baptismal gifts that we have to transform wherever we live. And we must love, forgive, and assist everyone who is in need. If we observe all of these, we should never be afraid of the end of time or the final judgment because we know that we are the righteous ones who are at Jesus' right hand waiting for him to say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant (…) Come, share your master’s joy.” (vv. 21, 23, NABRE). “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (v. 34, NABRE). That time, we will feast with him in the Heavenly Wedding Banquet. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

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